The Black Dove
The long and the short of the Amlingmeyer brothers are back with a roar for their third adventure, this time on the streets of 1893 San Francisco. The Chinese doctor they counted as a friend in On the Wrong Track first greets them with a shot to the scalp and is then himself murdered. Enter the boys: Sherlock Holmes-inspired Gustav (Old Red) and his little big brother and chronicler Otto (Big Red, who sheds his cowboy duds for city-slicker attire which doesn’t seem to want to stay on his body). They set out to get to the bottom of it, though they’ve yet to be formally hired as detectives. They’re soon joined by the mystery woman Diana Corvus, who completes a mismatched but delightful trio. The three are off and running through Chinatown, where the outlaws post the bounty. And they thought Texas was wild.
The key to unlocking the murder seems to revolve around Black Dove, a valuable prostitute from Madame Fong’s house who has gone missing soon after being bought by the ill-fated Dr. Chan. The search for her takes Diana and the brothers through opium dens, over Chinatown’s rooftops, and earns them the enmity of corrupt police officers, tong lords and their hatchet men alike.
This series just keeps getting better. The pace is breakneck and action-packed, but there’s always time for a wisecrack, even as characterizations deepen. The scene of the brothers applying at the Pinkerton Agency is a both a wonderfully funny and poignant tour de force. Mysteries, including a few hidden in the hearts of Big Red, Old Red and Diana, are revealed along with the sad truths of Chinatown. A great, rollicking tale, firmly set in its time and place.